Modern dentistry offers patients so many ways to restore teeth for a beautiful smile, but has often overlooked the needs of the fearful patient. Some statistics estimate that 30-50% of the population avoids going to the dentist out of fear. Patients should be able to have their dental care delivered in a caring and compassionate way that addresses and alleviates their anxiety. Many dentists are now trained to offer patients safe and effective ways to alleviate this fear through the use of medications.
There are many different reasons why a patient may develop anxiety over going for even a routine check-up and exam. Some patients have had bad experiences with previous dental treatment in childhood or as an adult. Others have a gagging problem and cannot easily tolerate anything being put into their mouth. As well, issues of control can also affect how someone relates to the dental environment and, very often, we are just too busy to schedule routine care and a small need snowballs into a neglected problem that is a source of embarrassment to be avoided. Many business people are too busy with active career and lifestyles that they don’t have time to see a dentist. All of these people can be helped by a dental team that understands how.
Typically, a patient will have an initial consultation with a dentist who is trained to help the fearful patient. Commonly, a class of medications called benzodiazepines is used in combination with traditional numbing and nitrous oxide. Patients will be able to experience their treatment in a dignified way without sweaty palms and that sick-to-the-stomach feeling they know too well. Dentists trained to help patients with these medications can provide a safe, non-judgmental and pain-free dental experience for their patients. This type of dentistry is often called by many names, such as: Sedation Dentistry, Sleep Dentistry, Twilight Sleep Dentistry, and Anxiolytic Dentistry.
During the first consultation your dentist will listen to what your needs are and how he can best help you to achieve your dental goal. Your dentist will also want to make sure you are generally healthy so that you can tolerate the treatment and medication well. A treatment plan which relates the time needed and the fees required should be presented in advance of the treatment. Since you will have medication at your treatment visit, you will usually need an escort home from the office. A common regimen would be for the dentist to prescribe a medicine to take before bedtime; this helps with sleep and helps the medicine given in the office the next day. Before the treatment, more medicine is given, crushed up, under the tongue. Numbing and nitrous oxide are also often used. Treatment starts when, and only when, the patient is comfortable.
This type of treatment allows patients to have longer dental visits so that they may have fewer visits. This is especially appealing to those whose lifestyle is very busy. It also allows you to get to the goal of a healthy and radiant smile in, often, just a few visits.
Personally, this type of treatment has been the most gratifying of all. Patients who have neglected their mouth, for whatever reason, are treated in my office with respect and dignity. Their smiles of delight and relief when their treatment is done and they see their new smile is inspiring. Our office has a strong and special bond with all of these patients.